Paul Tautges Christian Blog and Commentary

Vinegar and Smoke

  • Paul Tautges blogspot for pastor and counseling Paul Tautges of
  • 2013 Aug 01

Like vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who send him (Proverbs 10:26). This Proverb is especially helpful when counseling one another to overcome lazy habits.

This verse provides what may have been two common expressions capturing the trauma that comes as a result of lazy living. Merriam-Webster explains that enamel is the intensely hard calcareous substance that forms a thin layer partly covering the teeth (and) is the hardest substance made by the human body. When exposed to the acid in vinegar this very hard substance begins to dissolve weakening the enamel of the tooth. Teeth damaged in this way become extremely sensitive and prone to cavities, resulting in pain.

According to The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, exposure to smoke can cause irritation with a variety of symptoms such as burning sensations, redness, and tearing. It has also been my personal experience that every time I get smoke in my own eyes I find it seriously irritating and the pain drives me to find refuge from the source of the smoke.

This trauma that comes from lazy living involves both the senders as well as the lazy one who is sent. The senders are the ones who experience the kind of trauma described in this proverb, but it is the lazy one sent who is responsible for inflicting this painful irritation.

The one who does the sending seems to have either the authority, or the right or sufficient cause (perhaps an emergency call for help), to do the sending. Whatever occasion prompted the sending we are not made aware, nor is it the point of the verse. The sender is found suffering from pain, irritation, and/or anguish as a result of the lazy one sent.

This lazy one is identified as “sent” which seems to indicate that he was commissioned and indeed began the mission reasonably. However, the mission was never accomplished. The only indications of mission-failure are the troubles endured by the senders and the adjective attributed---the “lazy” one.  Although there could be any number of reasons given for this failure, ultimately only one reason for this failure is evident, that is, the laziness characteristic of the one described.

Put Away Laziness by Putting on Love

There is no resolution in this passage, no solution directly offered. There is, however, a powerfully implicit solution: Put away laziness. Cast it off. Consider it to have the same impact on the sent one as it has had on the ones sending. Consider their pain, irritation, and anguish.

Laziness, sloth, indolence are ultimately failures to obey the Law, which is a failure to love others above Self. Jesus summarizes the law in Luke 10:27, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."  A love for God will lead to a love for neighbor. A love for neighbor will look like Philippians 2:3-8:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

If we love the Lord this way and we love our neighbor this way then the consequence will be a putting of others before self, considering others above self, and seeing others' time as more important than our own. This requires self-discipline.

John MacArthur provides these helpful 7 practical tips he has used to develop his own self-discipline.

  1. Start small. For example, begin by cleaning your bedroom or office. Then extend that discipline to the rest of your home.
  2. Be on time. This is more than good advice; it’s based on Scripture (see Eccles. 8:6Eph. 5:15-16). Learn to budget your time, and discipline your desires so you can arrive at places on time.
  3. Organize your life. Use a schedule book or make a daily list of things you need to do. Don’t let circumstances control your time.
  4. Practice self-denial. Periodically refrain from something that is all right just to remind yourself who’s in charge. Sometime when you want a hot fudge sundae have a glass of iced tea instead.
  5. Do the hardest job first. Doing this will keep you from letting the difficult tasks slide by undone.
  6. Accept correction. Constructive criticism helps you become more disciplined because it shows you what to avoid. Acknowledge the courage of the one who corrects you. It’s almost always easier to keep silent, but that person, especially if he or she is a believer, spoke up because he or she likely had your best interest at heart.
  7. Welcome responsibility. If you’re qualified for a task or assignment that arises, such as opportunities at church, volunteer occasionally. That will prompt you to be disciplined and organized.

Commenting on this very Proverb, William Arnot in his Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, published in 1858 said, “He who is a Christian in little things is not a little Christian. He is the greatest Christian and the most useful.”

[Today’s guest post is written by Tom Garwood, Associate Pastor of Immanuel Bible Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.]